Can Elohim Mean “Great Men”?


Dear Rabbi, I recall, but can’t find where, that Elokim or a word spelled almost the same is used in Tanach just to mean “great men” or “powerful men”? If so, can you tell me where?

(In which case, am I right that I can write it and say it without capitalizing it and without replacing the H with a K??? )

That is my question, but the reason for the question is that a non-Jew I know in an online discussion group says that, “You shall not have other gods, Elokim acherim, before me” implies that there exist other gods. I replied that it refers to idols, etc. treated as gods but he says that’s an interpretation. If, as I recall (but I could be mistaken) I could show places where elohim clearly meant people, I think he would relent.

I found three inadequate locations. When the Israelites ask for the Golden Calf, they use the same word (“make us a god” ) but I think they plan to regard it as a real god. And in Shoftim 17:5 it’s translated as idolatry, but that would not prove to him that they were not gods, that is, with supernatural powers. And I think I found one place in Ketuvim that was not convincing to me, maybe because it was written hundreds of years later.

Am I right, that Elokim is used for “great men” somewhere in Tanach? Or was it elsewhere I saw it? Surely not the liturgy? Because I don’t understand Hebrew well, I only read the Hebrew for Tanach and the liturgy, so if I correctly remember that it it is there, it must be in Tanach or the service.

Thank you.



  1. Rashi, Bereishis 6:4, explains that whenever the term “Elohim” is used it denotes power and authority. I hope this helps your reply.

    When God’s name Elohim is used in the Torah, it illustrates the concept that God is the “one through whom all the plurality, (by everything being related to him), becomes a unity.” Simply said, since G-d is the creator of everything in the universe, everything in the universe is unified through God. Thus, the word Elohim as a name of God in the Torah, expresses that all the individual things in the world, that seem separate and autonomous, are all unified through the Source – God – Who is The Ruler of everything. By extension, the Torah also uses the word elohim to refer to human rulers, law-givers, and judges of the people, who each rule in their worldly domain.

    In the ancient world, the Oneness of God, as supreme Ruler and Judge over everything, was unique to Judaism alone. All early civilizations were polytheistic, that is, they all believed in many gods who were each limited in power to their own domain. For a good harvest, one might invoke the god of rain, or the god of fertility, or even both, by worshiping in the prescribed (pagan) manner.

    In the Torah understanding of the world, nothing presupposed Creation except God Himself, Who created the world and everything in it. Therefore, it is not surprising that the first time God is referred to in the Torah, the name Elohim is used, teaching us that God is the unity of all these things that are created in the story of Creation.

    Best wishes from the Team